Art is subjective — but that doesn’t mean there are certain rules to adhere to. Luckily, it’s easier than ever to learn those rules. There are hundreds of ways to learn novel writing, and in doing so you’ll get opportunities to build a prolific writing habit alongside the technical knowledge you need for a writing career. But how do you find the novel writing course that’s right for you? Here’s a brief roundup of some of the more popular methods, as a start to finding your own path to becoming a better novelist.
Novel writing course: Online
Perfect for the self-driven learner, online courses are relatively inexpensive, can be studied anywhere on the go, and provide a multimedia learning experience through video, audio, text and coursework.
Novel writing courses run from £10 to several hundreds of pounds, and may come with tutor interaction, or be totally up to the student.
These courses are open all year round, to unlimited students, and can be broad or incredibly niched . The Prolifiko Academy has just begun to offer online writing courses, and you can find more to try on Coursera and Udemy.
Related reads: The writing habits of top writing coach KM Weiland >>
Novel writing course: back to school
Pursuing a degree in creative writing is a noble pursuit, and allows you to get really in-depth in the subject. Gaining a qualification in creative writing is great if you want to go on to teach the subject, go after a PhD or postgraduate qualification, or want to enter the world of literary criticism or journalism.
However, if all you want to do is write novels, going to university may be an expense that’s hard to justify — especially in light of recent tuition fee hikes.
Universities usually offer diverse programs which study the history and theory of literature as well as other forms of writing such as playwriting, scriptwriting and poetry, and normally culminate in a final project such as a dissertation — usually a critique or exploration of a topic in creative writing — or a final piece, which can be a finished novel or excerpt.
There are hundreds of creative writing courses available in universities all over the country, so first check out your local institutions, or check UCAS to find the course for you.
Novel writing course: residentials
Residential novel writing courses, or retreats, are intensive courses which usually take place over a couple of weeks to a month (or longer) in a rural or picturesque location. Like an educational holiday, you live with other students in shared accommodation or separate rooms with communal areas, and spend the length of the course attending talks, completing practical work, networking and sharing advice and experiences.
They are a great idea for writers who needs to set aside time and space for their projects, but can be a little expensive — a six day writer’s retreat at the Clockhouse in Shropshire will cost you up to £600, and the Sacred Expression Women’s Retreat in Guatemala comes with daily yoga, meditation and writing sessions will cost you $1,195 per person.
Novel writing course: one-to-one coaching
Nothing beats the personal touch from a trusted, experienced author. Not many writers are known for offering personal mentorship, but if you can find one, it’s a sure-fire way of fast-tracking your education at the feet of someone who’s been there and done that.
Writers like Beth Miller and Kevin T. Johns offer personal writing coaching, and you can find others more local to your area by searching Google, but as is the case with personal programs it’s always best to check your personal network first.
Ask local writers’ circles, or even reach out to any authors you admire who you know stay in the area, if they know of any one-to-one programs — or would be willing to take you on.
Costs vary hugely: some authors are happy to offer pro-bono help, but you should never expect it. Others quite rightly charge thousands of pounds for intensive mentoring… and yet others may charge you and not deliver the value you need, or want. All in all, follow your gut, and make sure you trust your coach 100% before you begin.
Everyone’s writing journey is intensely personal, and no two stories will look the same — on or off the page! Try a few courses if you can, and visit open days and taster sessions regularly to ‘get a feel’ of the educational experience they offer.